Illinois Outdoors at
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Jeff Lampe

Jeff Lampe has been outdoor writer at the Journal Star in Peoria for 12 duck seasons. He lives in Elmwood with his wife Monica, sons Henry, Victor and Walter, and Llewellin setter Hawkeye. A native of Buffalo, N.Y., he is an avid fan of the Bills and still has mental scars from four consecutive Super Bowl losses. Outside of hunting and fishing, Lampe's main passion in Illinois was Class A boys basketball (which sadly no longer exists). Former publisher of the Class A Weekly newsletter, Lampe is a co-author of "100 Years of Madness" and "Classical Madness," both books focusing on prep basketball in Illinois.

Illinois Outdoors


A Web log by Jeff Lampe of the Journal Star

Of Redd Foxx, morels and much more

May 02, 2008 at 05:40 AM

Rambling through the outdoors wondering how many morels popped in the past 15 minutes.


Despite nasty weather, morels are up and growing across central Illinois. Best finds so far are greys, but several shroomers have started sacking yellows. Word is action has been very good in Cass County and in southern Fulton county. Then again, Photo Joe found 20 morels in the front yard of his South Pekin home while mowing on Monday.  So conditions should be good for Saturday’s Illinois State Morel Mushroom Hunting Championship at the Marshall-Putnam Fairgrounds in Henry. ... If you’re not mushroom hunting you should be fishing. This is big-fish time. Our latest state fishing report includes a 52-inch muskie at Lake Carroll, Robert Rhude’s 76.5-pound flathead catfish out of Sangchris Lake (1.5 pounds off a state record), a 69-pound grass carp out of Lake Petersburg (8 ounces off the state mark), a 9-pound walleye at McMaster Lake and plenty of 7-pound bass. Despite the weather, fish are moving shallow and biting. So go wet a line. ... While flooding has hurt Canada goose nesting in Iowa, goslings here are hatching everywhere.


Plastic lizards were the bait of choice at last weekend’s Peoria Sportsmen’s Club tourney at Spring Lake, won by Wayne Adams of Farmington and partner Scott Stone with 26.15 pounds. Adams was top angler with five bass of 15.42 pounds, including a 4.5-pounder caught five minutes before weigh-in. Second went to Don Schimmelpfennig of Manito and Shawn Hoerr (22.95 pounds) and third went to father-son duo Gary Stevenson of Peoria and Kip “Bearded Hen” Stevenson of Elmwood (19.9). Hoerr (4.98) and Matt Molitor (5.44) had big bass. ... Let’s see, if bass are hitting lizards in spring that usually means they’re ready to spawn. No wonder fish in a Peoria County strip mine were spewing eggs Thursday. ... Contrary to rumor, Rice Lake will plant corn in its Barton Field waterfowl refuge and in Banner Marsh refuges says site manager Bill Douglass. In fact, Monsanto has donated seed corn to Rice Lake and Anderson Lake for the past three years. ... Speaking of Anderson Lake, anglers this week hauled in a few of the biggest crappie that once-slaberiffic lake has produced in five years.


Some people have all the skill when it comes to turkey hunting. Chris Kent of Galesburg has three birds under his belt and leads Gobble Quest at Presley’s Outdoors with a 25.9-pound Henderson County gobbler. And state waterfowl biologist Ray Marshalla has bagged six gobblers: two in Kansas, two in Nebraska and two in Illinois. Plus he’s got two tags left for Wisconsin. ... For the record, morel mushrooms do not pop up and stay the same size. They grow. ... Jim Dillow has a helpful fishing tip. The other day his fishing partner, Chuck Bowton of Canton, caught a mussel while fishing at Adkins Beach near Chandlerville. Bowton pried the mussel open to retrieve his lure and cut out the meat to use for bait. Not 30 minutes later Bowton hooked up with a nice 8-pound channel catfish. ... If I was limited to five lures from here to eternity, these would be my choices : 1. Gary Yamamoto’s Senkos, 2. twister tail grubs on lead-head jigs, 3. tear-dropped shaped ice-fishing jigs, 4. chatterbait, 5. Rat-L-Trap. What about you?


Spent a few days in northern Mississippi this week and was amazed to see road-killed armadillos all over the place. Locals say numbers have steadily increased in the past 15 years. And we know they are moving into southern Illinois. Can it be long until we see the funky little critters here? ... Spread the spores: Tom Bodtke of Peoria offers this reminder for shroomers: “Use a mesh sack such as an onion sack when hunting mushrooms. That way you replant the spores as you walk through the forest. I hear it is a state law in Wisconsin.” ... Anyone looking to sell morels please call me. Several older folks who can no longer get into the woods will pay for the taste of spring. ... If you haven’t visited Lakeview Museum to see a display of Don Clark’s decoys, you have until May 10. My favorites are two mallards carved by Charlie Perdew that Clark’s wife, Almira, had commissioned as a Christmas gift for her then-fiancee. Actually, she asked for a dozen dekes. Perdew got two done by Christmas and finished the rest after the Clarks were married. ... Big beak: Eurasian collared doves are pretty birds, but the two around our house sure raise a racket.


DNA tests of a cougar shot in Roscoe Village north of Chicago show the cat left drops of blood in southern Wisconsin in January. Tests also indicate the male cougar was a wild, free-ranging cat genetically linked to South Dakota’s Black Hills population. The 124-pound cat measured 5 feet, 4 inches from nose to base of tail and tested negative for rabies. ... As for the many other reports emerging from Chicagoland on a daily basis, I don’t believe any. My favorite was a big cat sighting that wound up being a red fox. That’s comically stupid. Our Neighbor Ash might be capable of mistaking Redd Foxx for a cougar, but even Ash knows a red fox when he sees one. ... Parting shot: Lone Star Outdoor News says Wal-Mart will stop selling fishing tackle in 200 stores and will limit tackle sales in half its stores. Good riddance. There may be hope for local bait shops after all. 

Story and comments

Bass-eating trout and snake shooters

April 04, 2008 at 05:51 AM

Rambling through the outdoors wondering how many rainbow trout go straight from a state fisheries truck into the belly of a bass.

Sure Easter was early, but all signs indicate spring is slow in arriving. Bluebird nesting is way behind schedule according to Herb “Mr. Bluebird” Unkrich of Edwards. So is grass mowing, as neighbor Bernie Sager said he had fired up his grass guzzler on March 26 last year. More importantly, fishing has also been slow thanks to weather patterns that are unusually inconsistent even for early spring. ... But big bass are biting. From Kinkaid Lake in deep southern Illinois we heard word of an 8-pounder caught by Chicago-area angler Steve Anderson. A 7-pound, 15-ounce fish came out of Little Grassy Lake. The biggest we’ve seen evidence of around here so far was caught by Jefferey Todd Ohlman last Monday in a private pond north of Chillicothe. Ohlman was fishing a plastic worm and said the bass weighed 10-2. We’ll print Ohlman’s shot Sunday. ... Rumor mill: Word is circulating about an 11-pound, 14-ounce largemouth caught last Saturday at Siloam Springs State Park — three days after rainbow trout were stocked in the park’s 58-acre lake.

Speaking of trout, the season opens Saturday at 43 locations around Illinois, including Siloam Springs, the pond behind the Hennepin Canal visitor center, the I&M Canal in Utica and Miller Park in Bloomington. Bring corn, but try small spinners, waxworms and minnows. Daily bag limit is five trout. You need a trout stamp and a valid 2008 fishing license. ... If you visit Siloam Springs in Adams County, take bass gear and a few trout-imitating swimbaits. That place is a big-bass breeding ground. Remember that on April 17, 1999, Tim Stevens of Astoria caught a 10-pound, 13-ounce largemouth at Siloam Springs while fishing for trout with 6-pound test line and Berkley trout bait. ... Worth waiting: First day to sign up for camping spots at Comlara Park Call (309-726-2022, ext. 221) is Saturday at 8 a.m. But to get the first few spots you’ll need to show up for a lottery at 12:01 a.m. — that’s how popular camping spots are around Evergreen Lake. ... Resident deer hunting permit applications are not out yet. We’ll let you know when they arrive. Better yet, apply via the Internet at ... The North Zone youth turkey hunt is Saturday and Sunday. South Zone kids shot 245 gobblers last weekend — down 50 from 2007.

Went to see Sports Illustrated great Frank Deford speak Wednesday night at Bratley and left feeling good about being a sportswriter ... right up until I arrived at work and fielded 17 calls from Our Neighbor Ash and then found out I’d made a mistake in Sunday’s article. Sorry, the Chillicothe Recreational Area (309-274-2000) is not open for daily fishing. Annual fishing memberships are available at $225 for an individual or $325 for a family. ... So there’s been a cougar sighted in North Chicago that has residents up in arms, literally. An armed guard was stationed at a youth center the other day to keep watch after the big cat was allegedly spotted on the roof. Funny how Chicago types don’t mind guns when those weapons might work to their advantage. Reminds me of Rosie O’Donnell’s hypocritical stance a few years back. ... In my latest Wednesday fishing trip with son, he slipped into a lake up to his knees. Victor was fine after a bag of M&Ms and some root beer, but the incident was a reminder that steep-sided strip mines are tough to fish.

We’re pondering a regular feature tracking antics of Canton tele-hunter Tim Wells, the guy who speared a buffalo last fall. Last week he took his family to Texas for a combination turkey/rattlesnake hunt. Daughter Sydnie, 10, and son Clint, 8, both shot gobblers and rattlesnakes with bows while wife Kerrie arrowed a wild hog. “Everybody else goes to Disneyworld for spring break, we go hunting,” Wells said. ... Speaking of tele-hunters, Chris Brackett of Bartonville is on a quest for a wild turkey grand slam with a bow and without a hunting blind. So far he has two Osceola gobblers under his belt with three more species to go. ... Nets raised at Banner Marsh this week featured big crappie and a 45-inch muskie out of the Main Access. Main and Bell’s Landing accesses looked best for toothy critters. ... Parting shot: Seeing Gov. Blagojevich’s office propose a $5 to $10 increase in camping fees is no surprise, given Blago’s penchant for raising fees. What will be a surprise is if any extra funds stay within the Department of Natural Resources.


Story and comments

Of ice, muskie and hoops

March 07, 2008 at 04:53 AM

Rambling through the outdoors wondering how many 10-pound bass will be caught this spring in Illinois.


With ice thawing, March Madness is seizing many cabin-crazed anglers. This is the prime month to catch big bass in area strip mines and next week looks like a good chance to wet a line. Then again, Al Hayden of Al’s Sporting Goods in Galesburg notes there’s still 15 inches of ice on Lake Storey. So scout your water before setting out. ... Muskie mania is already underway at Spring Lake, where anglers have been launching boats since Monday. Guide Dan Vinovich of Pekin said action is slower than usual after ice-out, in part because ice keeps reforming. But he has boated several fish, including a 40-incher. ... Speaking of muskie, Jeff Sacco of Peoria hauled a 40-incher through the ice at Banner Marsh last Saturday. The muskie hit while Sacco was testing depth with an orange weight on a bare treble hook. He landed the fish thanks to 65-pound test muskie line on his tip-ups. Look for a picture Sunday. But don’t count on ice-fishing Banner now — there’s open water in places that were locked tight just five days ago.


Trail users at Jubilee College State Park have news to cheer. The site has a new Bobcat T300, a shiny new brush-cutting mower and a blade. “We are really going to improve the trails this summer,” site manager Tom Hintz said. And don’t worry that hunters have chased off all of Jubilee’s deer. Site staffer Pat Hanley had 13 run in front of his truck this week. ... Gunsmith David Prater of Lewistown sent two notes that caught my eye. One was about turkeys gobbling on Wednesday, a sure sign of spring. The other was a reminder for hunters that now is a good time to get shotgun repairs done. Fall is not far away, either. ... Larry Dozard of still has a few fishing calendars for sale at Presley’s Outdoors in Bartonville. ... Management of the Illinois State Morel Mushroom Hunting Championship is changing hands, as founders Tom and Vicky Nauman of Magnolia have passed the torch to Tom Davis of Henry. “Vicky and I no longer have enough time to devote to the festival and do it properly,” Nauman said. But Davis still plans to hold the event May 2-4 at the Marshall-Putnam Fairgrounds in Henry.


There’s no change in status at Powerton Lake, where repairs to the discharge tube have kept boaters sidelined. Site manager Stan Weimer said he has no indication when boaters will be allowed back. Bank anglers can still fish the cooling lake, including most of the discharge canal. ... With Powerton off limits, some eager bass anglers have headed for southern cooling lakes like Newton, Coffeen and Sangchris. Visit every Thursday for a statewide fishing report that includes information on those lakes and many others. We’ll publish local fishing reports in the Journal Star starting March 21. ... If you get bored on March 19, some guy named Jeff Lampe is going to discuss “Fishing in Illinois” at the Pekin Public Library at 7 p.m. There will even be free samples. To register call (309) 347-7111, Ext. 2. ... Our Neighbor Ash sez the only way he’ll show at the library is if the free samples are a mixture of hops, barley and malt. ... Faster, faster: Mercury recently unveiled a 350 hp outboard motor to match the 350 put out last year by Yamaha.


Looking to sell a mounted deer head? Consider calling Jimmy John’s corporate offices in Champaign. Yep, the guy who came up with those great-tasting sandwiches also has a taste for big racks. ... Male red-winged blackbirds and turkey vultures are here in force, another sure sign of spring approaching. ... Parting shot: This is what newspaper folk call burying the lede. And it’s a bad idea. But hey, I’m out of sorts. For the past 18 years this weekend meant one thing to me: the Class A boys basketball state finals. This has never been a weekend for family outings or vacations or fishing trips. Even my wife understood Class A weekend was holy. No longer. Bring on the kid’s school carnival. I hope four-class basketball turns out to be a blessing. I hope the small-school passion keeps burning. I hope championship trophies remain as awe-inspiring as the one my boys ogled last Saturday in Findlay’s little gym (where the 1992 team picture includes about one-third of the 97 students then enrolled). Someday I even hope to see another small-school tournament. But it won’t be this one.

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